Human use of aspirin started with an acid found in willow trees - so what do New Zealand plants and animals have to contribute to world medicine?

Two Victoria University lecturers give this month's Whanganui Science Forum talk, Chemistry in Nature. It's at 7.30pm on June 25 in the Davis Lecture Theatre, and will cost $4 for forum members and $5 for others.

They'll talk about commonly used medicines and drugs that started from natural substances - morphine from opium poppies that's used for pain relief, for example - and they will say how such useful properties are discovered, tested and refined.

New Zealand has plants, animals and other life forms not found elsewhere in the world. Organisms as diverse as a kawakawa shrub, a sea sponge, a fungus or a yeast may have substances that can defeat disease for people worldwide.

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Drs Andrew Munkacsci and Rob Keyzers will talk about the history of such discoveries and explorations in New Zealand, what is proving useful so far, and how traditional knowledge contributes to working that out.

Munkacsi works in biology, and is interested in biodiversity and medicine. Keyzers is the chemist, interested in food chemistry and organic synthesis of natural products. The two will bring biology and chemistry together.